Misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines designed to protect against it constitutes a “public health crisis,” the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors said on Tuesday, sparking backlash from many residents.
In a statement they unanimously adopted, regulators said the vaccines meet rigorous scientific standards and skepticism about the danger posed by COVID-19 has “created a culture of distrust” that undermines public health efforts to end the pandemic.
Observer John Joey, who submitted the statement with Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, quoted a quote commonly attributed to the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts.”
The Symbolic Declaration is the county’s final step in promoting vaccination. Currently, 82% of residents 12 and older in the county are fully vaccinated, and earlier this month Contra Costa joined other Gulf counties in setting criteria to end the home mask mandate for these people.
Dr Chris Farnitano, public health specialist for Contra Costa, said the county is on track to meet the first criteria by the end of this month, which reaches a moderate “yellow level” of COVID-19 transmission according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Standards.
Farnitano said the county could meet two other criteria, including hospital admissions and COVID-19 vaccination rates, by December or early January if current trends continue.
At Tuesday’s meeting, dozens of speakers blasted oversight and county health officials for promoting vaccines and labeling skeptical comments about them as misinformation.
Many have suggested that the governing body violates their freedom of expression by equating opposing beliefs with false information.
“This policy has created two classes of people — the vaccinated and the unvaccinated,” said Brock Venborn, a firefighter and paramedic for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.
He said one of his colleagues could be fired for refusing to be vaccinated and mourning the need for regular testing for the virus.
Other speakers wondered how much the definition of “disinformation” could be broadened to fit the oversight point of view, calling the declaration a “slippery slope”.
The oversight statement indicated that health workers, doctors and nurses recommended vaccines and alleges that false information about them led eligible residents to “refuse to vaccinate with COVID-19, abandon public health measures such as face closure and physical distancing; and the use of unsubstantiated treatments. “
Jason, a Hercules police officer who gave only his name, called the announcement “a direct attack on the First Amendment to the Constitution.”
“Years ago, a round earth was considered disinformation and science was exhausted,” Jason said. “We obviously know that’s not true.”
Lindsay King, a county resident who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said freedom of speech is “the backbone of a free society,” and warned of the political implications for regulators.
“Eradicating the rotten systems that propelled this agenda will be resolved by lawsuits and recalls,” King said. “You can do it, but it will come back to you.”
At one point, Joya flared up after spokesman Jackie Cota said the disinformation statement smacked of “frontier brown-shirt Nazism,” referring to the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party.
“It’s disgusting what you just said,” Joya snapped, adding later that although Kota had the constitutional right to make the remark, “I have the right to call it shameful, disgusting, inappropriate … I cannot allow that. No comments “.